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MLA Style: Basics

This guide is intended to help you cite sources in MLA style, avoid plagiarism, learn what MLA style is and includes, find examples of MLA style, lead you to campus resources that can help you cite sources in MLA, and more.

Formatting Titles

The second core element in bibliographic citations is the title of the source. Titles in English should be presented in title or headline case and either in quotation marks or italicized. End this core element with a period.

What do you mean 'either in quotation marks OR italicized'?

In general, the titles of longer works are italicized and the titles of shorter works are enclosed in quotation marks. [2.106] Books, movies, podcasts, musical albums, an journals are all italicized. Poems, YouTube videos, podcast episodes, song titles, and journal, newspaper and magazine articles are all enclosed in quotation marks.

Works without titles

If the work doesn't have a title, don't skip this element. Instead, write your own concise description of the source. Descriptions of works are not included in quotation marks. [5.28] Some untitled short works, like poems, use the first line as a title. In this case, include the first line as presented in the work and include it in quotation marks [5.29]

Shortening Titles

Very long titles can be shortened in your works cited list. Make sure you retain enough of the title for your reader to understand which source you're citing, and note that you've shortened the title with ellipses. The period or comma that ends the core element comes after these ellipses. [5.26]

What is title case?

Title or headline case is when you capitalize nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, subordinating conjunctions, and the first word of a title. Don't capitalize prepositions, coordinating conjunctions, the to in infinitives, or articles. [2.90]

What about titles in languages other than English?

Capitalize only the first letter of the first word of the title and words normally capitalized in prose. [2.91]

For additional guidance, consult the MLA handbook.